Nigeria Air: How Millions Of Dollars Was Squandered

Nigeria Air: How Millions Of Dollars Was Squandered

Prospective investors decline offer
Cabal protecting minister

Some schools of thought believe government has no business in business. A lot was said when the suspended Nigeria Air was unveiled in July, skepticism was louder than optimism with a lot of unanswered economic questions.

The fact that almost every topical issue in Nigeria is mixed up and given a political connotation remains a cancer leaders and the citizenry must massively be ready to deal with.

BY CHIDOZIE OGBONNAYA

Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika’s London launch of Nigeria Air in July, 2018 cannot totally be devoid of politics as many argued before now that the proposed December 2018 take-off did not make economic sense and outside the fancy of having our own national carrier, there was simply no business case to make for Nigeria Air.
High taxes, multiple fees and levies, volatile fuel costs and poor regulation are normally the clog in the wheel of progress of air travel businesses in Africa; These factors shoot up air travel costs in Africa by 200 per cent higher than in Europe, which raises the question of whether the launch was well-thought out or political razzmatazz in a penultimate year to general elections?
Notably, when the former Minister of Education and co-convener, Bring Back Our Girls, BBOG, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili described Federal Government’s plan to set-up the botched Nigeria Air with public funds as a waste of resources, attracted criticisms with her attackers concentrating more on her political leaning and ideology, other than real economic issues.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, also took a swipe at the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, describing the venture as a ploy to scam the world’s most populated black nation.
Unfortunately, reasons offered by Sirika did not satisfy many Nigerians who did predict doom in July. Questions on the lips of Nigerians remain the following:
Who takes the fall as millions of dollars had already been squandered trying to establish Nigeria Air?
What transpired between FG and investors?
Was FG trying to tantalise Nigerians in order to better their scorecard ahead 2019 general elections?

How Millions of Dollars was squandered
Initially, Nigeria Air was projected to gulp $308.8 million dollars as preliminary and take-off cost with the airline billed to receive the first set of 5 airplanes on 19 December 2018.
According to an insider, Mr Dapo Williams who revealed this during the launch in London, the Nigerian government was not fully funding the airline as it has adopted midwifing it via the option of a Public-Private Partnership, PPP, to deliver a national carrier that would stand the test of time and be world class in operation and management. He also said the airline will make profit in 3 years after operations.
However, a report by an online publication, TechPoint Africa said Nigeria had spent N1.5 billion on Nigeria Air before Sirika announced the “indefinite suspension” of the national carrier on his Twitter handle. The project first appeared in the 2016 budget with an allocation of $1.53 million and has been popping up ever since, like a bad coin.
What is baffling is that Sirika, and those who could have called him to order, deliberately ignored all the warning signs of a clear and present danger and just kept spending the money and making commitments in a way that they might never have dared if they were spending the money from their own pockets, or in a country where accountability counts.
And now, N1.5 billion or more of public funds is going down in just one tweet. What is undone is undone and there’s not much use in beating Sirika over the head with the forlorn logo of his fancy project. But a single tweet isn’t enough to bury the mess.
“It is very obvious that the national carrier project was a matter of “national pride” for the APC-led administration than economic considerations”, a financial expert, Ifeanyi Okeke told AljazirahNigeria.
“Before the vultures return to the crime scene, as they will, we need to know, line by line, what has been spent so far on the national carrier, for what and why.”
“We know that the Bahraini company that delivered the livery has been paid off, but what about the current consultants, led by the London-based Airline Management Group? What is the status of the agreement with them and what is the cost of terminating the agreement with them or with any other parties Sirika may have been involved with?” Mr Okeke queried.

Prospective Investors Decline Offer
Against a trending believe that investors backed down on the Nigeria Air project, the embattled Minister of State, Aviation disclosed that the national carrier (Nigeria Air) project was not suspended because of lack of investors.
Sirika, named international finance institutions such as the Afro-Exim Bank, African Development Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, aircraft manufacturers – Airbus and Boeing, Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Air as establishments ready to invest in the project.
Historically, it is scary that 27 airlines have gone under in the last 25 years in Nigeria. The nation’s aviation antiquity also reveals that no privately-run airline in the country has lasted 30 years.
AljazirahNigeria also learned that the average lifespan of Nigeria airlines is 10 years. It is a known fact that aviation charges in Nigeria are about the most expensive in the world due to high taxes, charges, and levies, which is also a big scare for prospective investors.

Cabals Protecting Minister
In saner climes, drivers of such monumental waste of scarce resources would either throw in the towel or be rooted out by the government, especially for a government that is believed to be intolerant to corruption and undue waste of resources.
A source close to the Presidency revealed to AljazirahNigeria that the Minister is adequately protected by the power blocks in the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Some political analysts were of the opinion that the lack of synergy between the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo-led Economic team and the cabal-backed Minister of Aviation was one the major reasons why the Nigeria Air project failed.
The PDP had hitherto alleged that the entire project was a huge fraud designed to syphon billions of naira by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabal using a phantom project. The spokesman of the biggest opposition party in the country, Kola Ologbondiyan, said: “it is unfortunate that, not having any development project to parade, Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have now resorted to international kite-flying aimed at hoodwinking unsuspecting Nigerians.
“If the Buhari administration is not on a fantasy trip to beguile Nigerians and pave further ways for its humongous corruption, it should have focused on our existing national carrier structures in addition to three operating airlines, already taken over by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON .”
The former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, also condemned the suspension of the national carrier project.
Duke made the remark when reacting to the suspension of the Nigeria Air project. He said the launch of the Nigeria Air was from the beginning against the advice of competent experts.
He charged the federal government to state the penalties and fate of $55 million of taxpayers’ money purportedly spent on the airline.
Duke on his Twitter page wrote: “FG suspends Nigeria Air Project: This was ill-conceived and against the advice of several competent experts.
“What is the fate of about $55 million of taxpayers’ money purportedly spent on the airline? Are there penalties stipulated in the contracts? Buharinomics at its worst.”

Stakeholders’ Take
AljazirahNigeria gathered the perspective of some stakeholders who spoke to News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, upon the announcement of the suspension of the national carrier project. Here are some of their views:
Mr John Ojikutu, an Aviation Security Expert and the Managing Director, Centurion Aviation Security and Safety Consult expressed shock that the government could do a U-turn after so much progress had been made.
Ojikutu said the decision to suspend the national carrier project was an indication that government had not been able to develop strategies to set a true national carrier.
An Abuja-based businessman, Mr Rowland Achi, expressed concern that the national carrier could not come up, now.
Achi called on the minister to come out and explain to Nigerians what the challenges were and engage some Nigerian businessmen and women that had the financial wherewithal to invest in the project.
According to him, running to foreign investors at the onset could be responsible for the failure.
A civil servant, Mr Paul Audu said it was honourable, on the part of the government, to suspend the project instead of deceiving Nigerians by using it to campaign for the 2019 general elections.
Audu, however, urged the government not to kill the idea of having a national carrier, considering the resources it had so far spent on the project.
Mr Ikechi Uko, an Aviation and Tourism Expert, said he was happy that government had taken the decision to halt the establishment of a national carrier because of the timing.
Uko said that in as much as the project was a laudable one, the timing was wrong because it was a political era.
In synopsis, the government of the day cannot be distanced from being blamed in the failed venture coupled with its flag-off close to election period made skeptics believe that its nothing but all politics. However, some also believe that it was better the Federal Executive Council, FEC, ate the humble pie and pull out of the project rather than go on with the executive lavish.


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